Teweiariki Teaero

READ THE WORLD – Kiribati: Poetry by Teweiariki Teaero

This is where working at a university whose library boasts it has a copy of every book ever published in English, whether digitally or physically, comes in handy. This is where I found some texts for the smaller countries, especially those in the Pacific. A book called Indigenous Literatures from Micronesia edited by Evelyn Flores, Emelihter Kihleng and Craig Santos Perez proved to be invaluable. It’s a collection of poetry, short stories, critical and creative essays, chants, and excerpts of plays by over seventy different Indigenous Micronesian authors and it tells you which country each of the authors are from including Marshall Islands, Guam, Nauru, Kiribati, Palau, and Kosrae, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap, the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.

There were a few writers from Kiribati featured in the book but I picked Teweiariki Teaero poetry to feature as he had three poems in the collection and they each were quite different. The poems were “Garlanding”, “Nareau’s Return” and “Merry Ancestors”.

Of the three “Merry Ancestors” is the one I liked the most. It’s almost like a children’s story as the sounds of thunder and lighting and a storm is explained as their ancestors having a party. I generally love when there are stories explaining stuff like storms to children to make them less scary or to connect the thing that’s happening to the past or spirituality.

“Garlanding” didn’t really have as much impact or interest to me as the other two but I still liked how it’s a poem about flowers and an act of giving and love.

“Nareau’s Return” is a poem where a little googling led me to understand it more as it had cultural reference in it that I was unaware of. The Nareau in question is the creator deity in the mythology of the Gilbert Islands, of which Kiribati is a part of. Reading the poem again knowing that Nareau is a god rather than simply an old man like he’s described adds extra layers to the poem and makes his confusion of how the country has become industrialised more understandable. He doesn’t recognise his home and the sounds of things like cars overwhelms him.